Monthly Archives: March 2013

Turkey seasons begin Monday…check out these spurs

A lot of hunters judge a tom’s trophy quality by the length of its beard, but most longtime, well-travel sportsmen, know it’s a bird’s spurs that best bespeak its age and dominance.

Any turkey hunter worth his best box call has been counting the days until Monday for several months. April 1 is the traditional opener for youth, disabled and archery turkey hunters. Shotgun season begins April 10, always the second Wednesday of the month, and both seasons end May 31.

Most people think bird numbers are up over much of the state, though some regions are still rebuilding after several bad hatches beginning about six years ago. Around the Wichita area a lot of outdoors folks have reported seeing a lot of yearling jakes. Though many hunters prefer to reserve their tags for an older longbeard, the mobs of jakes this spring gives added promise for next season when the birds are hard-gobbling, call-charging two-year-olds.

There are certainly some trophy-class birds waiting to be called or decoyed. I photographed a great tom with spurs as long as golf tees but as wicked as shark’s teeth, Wednesday morning in Butler County. To the hardcore gobaholic such birds are called limbhangers, meaning the spurs are good enough to suspend the bird upside-down from a tree limb.

On and off winter weather of the past few weeks seems to have confused the birds a bit but only a few days of warm weather will get toms and hens moving out and about. Kansas annually produces some of the best turkey hunting in the nation, and the annual success rate usually above 50 percent is almost always  near the top for all 49 states with spring seasons.

A flock of young jake turkeys strut in a snowy field in Chase County Wednesday morning. Biologists think recent cold and snow may have the birds still lingering in winter patterns.

Casts and Blasts from March 21 KDWPT Commission meeting

As at most, too much happened at last week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Topeka to be included in one article. Well, technically even within two articles.



Also at the meeting -

- Commissioners Debra Bolton and Randy Doll were absent.

– Matt Peek, Wildlife and Parks furbearer biologist, began discussions to make it illegal for coyote hunters to hunt from vehicles or use two-way radios for hunting coyotes during Kansas’s 12 day general firearms deer season. Peek said the department regularly gets complaints about possibly illegal deer hunters hunting from vehicles and using radios, then claiming they’re hunting coyotes if checked by game wardens. If voted into law at an upcoming meeting, the regulation would allow other kinds of coyote hunting during the firearms deer season.

–Peek also recommend a modest reduction in pronghorn permits for the 2013 seasons because the population has suffered because of drought.

– Tim Donges, El Dorado Quality Deer Management Association, asked if the department might want to consider making shotguns with slugs the only legal weapons during the firearms deer season. He also suggested discussion on minimum antler restrictions to help insure people don’t shoot young bucks. Donges noted that several states implement both regulations.

– Wildlife and Park’s was awarded the “Outstanding Sportfishing Restoration Award” from the American Fisheries Society for the fishing opportunities opened up by their Fishing Impoundments and Stream Habitats program, which opens hundreds of private land fishing areas to the public.

– Shawn Stratton, Fort Riley wildlife biologist, said last season’s kill of about 440 deer was a new record for the military base. He estimated the population to be about 1,500 deer on the fort’s about 101,000 acres.

– Commissioners in attendance spoke of their decision to pass regulations that now allow the widespread use of crossbows during archery deer seasons, and making it legal for any centerfire rifle or handgun to be legal for hunting big game in Kansas.

– “If we make a mistake, we can correct it,” Gerald Lauber, commission chairman said of revisiting the regulations, if needed, “but if the legislature makes a mistake I’m not sure they’re going to correct it. Well, they don’t make mistakes.”

–”I think the economic benefits are great, and that we could get more youth involved is great,” Commissioner Don Budd said. “I think this is a good thing.”

– Becky Blake, state tourism director, said studies show that for every $1 Kansas invests in marketing tourism, there’s a return of $80.

– Rex, an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever in the department’s K-9 program was honored upon his retirement from law enforcement work.

Crossbows, all centerfires legalized for deer hunting in Kansas

Kansas hunters now have a lot more choices for what equipment they can use during deer and turkey seasons.

Thursday evening the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approved the use of crossbows during all archery deer seasons for all hunters. They also removed caliber restrictions for deer rifles.

The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission, Thursday evening, unanimously approved all of the department’s requests for liberalizing weapon and other equipment restrictions.

– Crossbows will now be legal for all hunters during archery deer seasons in Kansas.  Previously they were only legal for those with approved physical limitations, those 15 and under and 55 and older, in four deer management units  involved in a two year study.
 — Any centerfire rifle or handgun cartridge can now be used for big game hunting during the appropriate firearm season. Previously, rifle cartridges had to be at least .22 caliber and handgun cartridges had to be at least  1.28-inches long.

— Slugs can now be used in any gauge shotgun for deer hunting in Kansas, rather than 20 gauge or larger.

 — The restriction saying all crossbows had to have at least 120 pounds of pull was also removed.

—  Most electronic devices attached to bows are now legal, including such things as attached cameras, and rangefinders. Also, radio frequency devices attached to arrows, that stick to an arrowed deer to ease in retrieval, are also legal.

 —  Any shotgun, regardless of gauge, can now be used for turkey hunting. Before, it was only shotguns 20 gauge or larger.

  Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said the new regulations will be in effect when deer seasons open in September. He estimated it will take about four weeks before the turkey regulations become law, because of the legal process. Tymeson said Wildlife and Parks will post a news release when those regulations become official, to inform hunters afield for the upcoming spring turkey seasons that basically run April 1-May 31.

    Robin Jennison, Wildlife and Parks secretary, said he favored the changes to allow hunters more freedom of choice, and to possibly make it easier for more children and small-framed adults to enjoy time deer hunting. He’s not concerned the changes will lead to an over-harvest of deer, or decline in the state’s trophy quality.

   “It’s always been a societal issue, and never been a biological issue,” Jennison said of the crossbow and caliber changes that drew lengthy debate for several years at commission meetings. “The crossbow(becoming legal) doesn’t take away from the experience of anybody who wants to use a (vertical) bow.”

 Brent Gardner, a National Rifle Association representative from Fairfax, Virginia, said his group supported all of the weapon changes, and said the NRA has studied the topics at length and never found where any of them have a negative impact on wildlife.

  Several commissioners said they had gotten several e-mails and phone calls opposing the equipment changes, but found widespread support when they started talking to local sportsmen. “If I was up here representing bowhunters I would be against it,” Commissioner  Roger Marshall, Great Bend, said of crossbows. “But I have to represent the people (of Kansas.) I don’t think passing this is going to hurt the deer herd.”

African wildlife official says American hunters important for survival of lions

A recent opinion editorial in the New York Times, “Saving Lions by Killing Them,”  was forwarded to me recently.

It’s by the Tanzanian Natural Resources director of wildlife, and addresses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s considering putting lions on the endangered species list. Such a move would make it illegal to import any parts of African lions, like hides for mounting. Such a ruling would basically stop many American hunters from traveling to the African nation, which, according to the official, could actually harm the species and damage the country’s economy.

Here’s a bit of the director’s published writing -

“In Tanzania, lions are hunted under a 21-day safari package. Hunters pay $9,800 in government fees for the opportunity. An average of about 200 lions are shot a year, generating about $1,960,000 in revenue. Money is also spent on camp fees, wages, local goods and transportation. And hunters almost always come to hunt more than one species, though the lion is often the most coveted trophy sought. All told, trophy hunting generated roughly $75 million for Tanzania’s economy from 2008 to 2011.

The money helps support 26 game reserves and a growing number of wildlife management areas owned and operated by local communities as well as the building of roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure — all of which are important as Tanzania continues to develop as a peaceful and thriving democracy.”


Similarly, about 20 years ago famed Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey, said hunting should be allowed again in Kenya as a way to raise funds to help fund wildlife and anti-poaching programs. While heading the Leakey wildlife department, he issued a law that all elephant poachers should be shot on sight.


Kansan wins prestigious National Wildlife Federation’s Volunteer of the Year Award

Emporia’s Phil Taunton has been named “2012 Volunteer of the Year” by the National Wildlife Federation.

Emporia’s Phil Taunton has been named “2012 Volunteer of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation”. Taunton received the award last Saturday, at the conservation group’s annual meeting in Albuquerque.

A press release said Taunton was chosen because “his service and dedication to educating America on the importance of wildlife conservation.”

Taunton has been involved in many outdoors education programs in Kansas, including ECO-Meets, No Child Left Inside and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman programs. He was also instrumental in publication of “Last Child on the Prairie: A Directory for Parents and Teachers for Returning Children to the Outdoors.” He has also been a leading member in several programs that have promoted youth enjoying the outdoors in honor of Beau Arndt, an area youth tragically killed by a poacher while he was hunting geese with his friends.

Taunton has also been active in creating anti-poaching legislation and pushes outdoors causes on his “What’s In Outdoors” radio show on KVOE, 14000 AM in Emporia.

Possible state record giant buck found dead?

Buckmasters, a leading hunting-based club promoting everything white-tailed deer, recently published an online article about a buck supposedly found dead in Kansas last summer that grossed about 330-inches of antler. The photo of the antlers is nothing short of eye-popping to those who appreciate world-class antlers.


The buck was supposedly found dead, probably dying from EHD last summer, with 55 scorable points and more mass than the business end of a Louisville Slugger. The story says the buck had been in trail camera photos several times, then seemingly disappeared. A man hoping to hunt the buck went looking, found the buck dead along a creek…which is how many EHD victims are found.

The story also says the family that found the buck is asking to stay anonymous, to keep the location of buck’s home territory secret.

If true, and there’s no reason to believe it’s not, the antlers would be one of probably less than 20 whitetail racks to gross more than 300 points in the world.

The Kansas state record non-typical nets about 280-inches, and was shot about 25 years ago near Topeka. The Buckmasters scoring system basically goes by gross scores, with no deductions for a lack of symmetry so it’s currently not possible to compare the rack to the current state-record.

Also, Wildlife and Parks only recognizes bucks legally taken for their record book.

Buckmasters promises more details in an upcoming magazine article.

Deer disease continues to spread eastward

A map of CWD cases in Kansas. The red dots are the four cases found in whitetail bucks in 2012.

Chronic wasting disease continues to move eastward through the Kansas deer herd, according to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism biologists.  The disease is 100-percent fatal to members of the deer family, like white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It’s yet to be transferred to humans or livestock.


Shane Hesting, Wildlife and Parks disease biologist, said four more cases have been identified from animals tested in 2012. Most were shot by hunters during fall deer seasons. One each was found in Ellis, Norton, Trego and Sherman counties. It was the first ever found in Ellis County. The first Kansas deer with the disease was found in Cheyenne County in 2005. It’s since been on a steady spread to the east and south.

In 2011 eight positives were found, but Hesting pointed out that was from about 2,500 animals tested. Last year, only about 375 animals were tested because of a lack of federal funds that had helped test more than 20,000 deer over about the past 15 years. To make up for reduced samples the agency is concentrating its testing mostly on mature deer, which have a higher likelihood of contracting the disease than young deer.

The agency will be rotating it’s main sampling area annually, to make sure they get enough samples from a region for a solid evaluation.

The closest infected animal to Wichita was a deer from Stafford County in 2011. An initial report of a positive animal from Sumner County that same year later proved to be a false-positive. To date, 52 animals have tested positive for the disease in Kansas.

This whitetail buck found in Sherman County last October tested positive for CWD. COURTESY PHOTO

CWD was first diagnosed along the border of  Colorado and Wyoming in the mid-1960s, and seemed to begin to spread in the mid-1990s. Some of the spread has been attributed to the transportation of captive deer and elk. Kansas had such an elk test positive in 2001. It came from an infected herd in another state.

The disease has also been found in Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Missouri and West Virginia. It was discovered in Pennsylvania recently. Biologist think it might be being transported eastward by eastern hunters returning with  carcasses of animals shot in western states. Some states have made it illegal to import anything but the boneless meat and antlers from animals shot in other states.




Another whooping crane shot and killed in Texas

A pair of whooping cranes in the shallows at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in central Kansas. No whooping cranes have been poached in Kansas since two died in 2004. At least 8 others have been shot in other states since, including one this winter in Texas. (Photo by Michael Pearce/The Wichita Eagle)

According to the Austin Statesman, another whooping crane has been shot and killed. The bird was shot earlier this winter, in the southern part of Texas.

You can read the original story here.

That the newspaper isn’t able to get many details about the shooting isn’t too surprising, since it’s a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation.

The agency that is funded by the American public, is really good at keeping details away from the American public until nearly all aspects of an investigation, and the following process of justice, are complete. Facts will come out, though, and they’ll probably be spot-on.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time in recent history that whooping cranes have been shot and killed. As the article states, one was shot in South Dakota about a year ago … and the guy was just fined more than $80,000 for the crime.

During a span of about 16 months, five or six were shot in eastern states in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Three of those birds were found dead at about the same time, in the same county in Georgia, in 2003. It’s interesting those shootings got very little national media attention.

A poacher who shot one in Indiana was fined $1 for the crime.

No doubt the most infamous whooping crane shootings occurred in Stafford County in 2004, when a party of goose and sandhill crane hunters turned into a party of poachers when they supposedly mistook three whoopers for sandhill cranes.

I’ll try to keep you informed as this most recent case in Texas develops.